Winter Time at an
Anchorage Drive-In Theater
by Michael R Dougherty
Sundowner Drive-In Theater
What are your memories of going to one of the drive-in theaters in Anchorage during the winter months?
One of the good things about that time of year was that it was dark enough outside to see the movie on the screen. In the Summer months, it was difficult to see the movie because it was still light outside.
In the winter, you had to roll down your driver's side window, grab the speaker and hang it off your window, so you could hear the movie. Of course, that meant cold air and maybe even snow coming into your car.
The Billiken Drive-In, located on the southern end of Muldoon, was the first one in Anchorage. It opened in September 1963 and was owned by Ed and Marie Hanby.
The Sundowner Drive-In opened in 1969 and was located behind the Fireweed Theatre.
You may also remember a third, the Cinema 360 Drive-In located on the old Seward Highway at Huffman. It opened circa 1972.
The Sundowner drive-in, located behind the Fireweed indoor theater, had small heaters hanging on the post beside your car. The Billiken may have also offered heaters, but I don't remember that drive-in very well.
The heaters would blow warm air into your vehicle. If the heater was working. Occasionally, when you first turned them on, they would spew snow and ice into your car.
And let's not forget that cold trip to the concession stand. Here you were in your nice, warm car. And if you wanted a soda, popcorn, or the burgers and fries they sold, some poor soul had to volunteer to make the cold trek from the warmth of your car to the waiting concession stand.
But Alaskans are a hearty breed and aren't about to let anything like a little cold and snow keep them from an otherwise fun evening at a drive-in movie.
Sadly, drive-in theaters are a thing of the past. But in Anchorage, we all have memories of driving our cars and trucks into the theater and parking in one of those spaces next to a speaker post.
And near the end of the movie you would always hear this come over your car speaker – “the concession stand will close in 10 minutes. The concession stand will close in 10 minutes.”